Baggily structured, but still engaging and occasionally insightful, British drama “Cass” recounts the story of real-life soccer hooligan Cass Pennant. Though the pic looks like yet another dispatch from the macho world of violent soccer gangs (covered already by “The Firm,” “The Football Factory” and others), debutant writer-helmer Jon S. Baird shows a more sensitive side, exploring Cass’ family life, racism and the turbulent times (the ’80s-’90s) in which the story is set. The pic kicked off poorly with low-ball B.O. after its early August opening in Blighty, but could gain momentum in ancillary.
After a routine opening showing protagonist Cass (Nonso Anozie) being shot, the film flashes back to his childhood. An Afro-Caribbean orphan, Cass (played at 10 and 14 by Verelle Roberts and Daniel Kaluuya, respectively) is raised by white, salt-of-the-earth types (Linda Bassett, Peter White). Learning to fight back against racist bullying instills a love of “aggro” in Cass, who eventually becomes the kingpin of soccer club West Ham’s violent supporters. Niftily choreographed fight scenes impress, as does the eclectic period soundtrack — and, most of all, thesp Anozie, an enormous presence in every sense.